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Mayors discuss law enforcement consolidation

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth are not on the same page when it comes to the potential consolidation of law enforcement services, with each mayor preferring their city’s law enforcement agency take over policing in both cities.

As is the case in most cities, law enforcement on Anna Maria Island is the most expensive public service provided to residents, visitors and businesses. With the looming threat of state-imposed consolidation facing the three Island cities, the three Island mayors continue to look for cost-cutting measures that would save taxpayers’ dollars and potentially appease state legislators who requested the consolidation study being conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).

Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach have their own police depart ments and police chiefs. Anna Maria does not, and instead contracts law enforcement services from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Led by Sgt. Brett Getman, with additional supervision provided by Lt. John Belt, the MCSO Anna Maria Unit is headquartered in the former city annex building on Pine Avenue.

On April 23, Titsworth met with State Rep. Will Robinson Jr. to discuss consolidation and the concerns associated with that state-imposed scenario. Titsworth then told The Sun that she and Police Chief Bill Tokajer were in preliminary talks with Murphy about the Holmes Beach Police Department taking over law enforcement in Anna Maria.

Titsworth told The Sun the two cities would research the financial numbers associated with the potential consolidation of law enforcement services, and also the potential drafting of an interlocal agreement between the two cities.

Mayors discuss law enforcement consolidation
Mayor Dan Murphy supports the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office providing primary law enforcement services to all three Island cities. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Murphy addressed then these matters during the May 9 Anna Maria City Commission meeting.

“The article said Mayor Titsworth and I were working together on looking at having Holmes Beach provide police services for the city of Anna Maria and that we were preparing an interlocal agreement to do just that. That’s not the case,” Murphy said.

“Mayor Titsworth and I had a phone conversation shortly after she met with Representative Robinson. I said the elephant in the room is public safety. We’re operating with three separate police forces,” Murphy said.

Murphy noted Anna Maria is paying $1.3 million for contracted MCSO law enforcement services for the current 2023-24 fiscal year, the lowest of the three Island cities.

For the current fiscal year, Holmes Beach budgeted $4.63 million for its police department and Bradenton Beach budgeted $1.77 million. Combined, the three cities budgeted $7.7 million for law enforcement.

“If you really wanted to save the taxpayers’ money, which has always been the caveat in consolidating, that’s what should be looked at,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Titsworth did tell him that she would look into Holmes Beach providing police services to Anna Maria, but he favors a different approach – eliminating the Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police departments and contracting the sheriff’s office to provide Island-wide law enforcement services.

“I’m very pleased with the services the sheriff is providing us. We have far more scope of services with the sheriff’s department than we could ever have with an Island-wide police force,” Murphy said, noting the sheriff’s office has a helicopter, K-9 officers, detectives, marine patrol officers and more.

“The array of services are almost endless from a public safety standpoint and they’re economical. To me, that would be significant savings,” Murphy said.

When contacted by The Sun the following day, Titsworth confirmed that she and Murphy discussed the two cities sharing a police force.

She then noted Holmes Beach has mutual aid agreements with the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies in Manatee County regarding the sharing of technology, equipment and services. She also said the sheriff’s office provides Holmes Beach with additional assistance during high-volume holiday weekends.

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